How to Stay Safe on Safari in Kenya: 6 Essential Tips

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Our safety expert shares the basic rules of safety on a wildlife safari in Kenya. Find out why you should always listen to your guide, and how to stay healthy.


In a safari jeep in Kenya, with dark clouds in the distance Photo © World Nomads/Trent O’Donnell

Spotting big game in Africa is one of the great travel adventures, surrounded by wide-open landscapes, dangerous animals and the continent‘s raw beauty and intriguing history. You will be overwhelmed when you spot your first lion or elephant. However, no matter where you go in sub-Saharan Africa, there are rules you must follow when in the bush. So if you want to make this an enjoyable and memorable experience, you will need to follow them and don't worry too much if you don't get to see the big five. 

1. The dangers of safari life

Here are some basic rules. 

  • Keep your voice down – animals scare easily and you wouldn't want to miss a pride of lion because you are chatting too loudly
  • Always stay in the van, truck or 4WD – Africa is not a zoo and its animals will eat you. There have been many terrible cases of people getting out to try and grab the perfect photo
  • Never turn your back on a wild animal – this is more for the brave souls who undertake a walking safari (one of the great joys of Africa). The only thing that turns and runs in Africa is prey, so lions will chase you
  • Listen to your guide: not every situation will be safe for you. If your guide advises you to move on or back away, then do so.

From Botswana to Kenya, South Africa to Uganda, all rules vary. But they are aimed at keeping you safe, keeping the animals safe and keeping the tourist dollars flowing.

1. Infections

Being in the wild will bring you in contact with a variety of possible infections: malaria, sleeping sickness and dysentery are just a few of the diseases you can pick up. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date, and follow these precautions against insect bites:

  • Wear long loose-fitting white clothing
  • Put insect repellant on exposed skin – day and night
  • Sleep under nets or have insect repellent in your room.

3. Charge your devices

Do yourself a favour before even considering traveling to Africa, buy a good camera and make sure it is charged before you venture out. If it is a battery-operated camera then carry some extra batteries. Africa is a photographer's dream.

Lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes – you don't want to get substandard snaps or miss that shot because your battery has died.

But in saying that, don't let your whole trip be seen through the viewfinder of your new Canon.

4. How to see wildlife safely in Kenya

We know that you want to see them all, but disappointment is a word some people come away with when they get back from a safari.

If you want to see every animal within an hour, it's much cheaper to buy a ticket to the zoo.

Good game parks don't have fences, they are sweeping plains where animals roam free. But this doesn't mean spotting a lion, elephant, hyena, leopard and cheetah is guaranteed.

Here are some ways you can increase your chances:

  • Go with a trusted guide – someone who knows the terrain, the best areas and the movement of the animals
  • Don't expect to see everything in one safari – you can spend months in the African bush and still see new animals each time you visit
  • Pick your time of year, if you have limited time, go when the grass is short, the animals are around and viewing is expected
  • Keep your eyes open – people sometimes wait for the animal to come to them. They aren't paid performers, so search yourself. After a few trips, your eyes will become sharp and you spot game everywhere
  • Listen. You aren't the only ones on the lookout for the animals. Smaller, less aggressive creatures are also watching their backs. Bird calls, animal noises and strange silence can all mean a lion is lurking nearby.

Guides will always have suggestions where to look for the animals. Lions love the shade and leopards love the trees, so don't expect them to just walk into the middle of the road.

Africa is a living environment, you are just a guest - the myths about a wide playground full of animals are all true.

And always remember safari doesn't mean animal-spotting, it literally means journey - so take in your surroundings. The environment is just as important as the creatures that fill it.

5. Safety while camping on safari in Kenya

One of the true great safari experiences is sleeping under the stars. Most visitors go straight to the luxury lodges, but they miss out on the real experience.

Pitching a tent with an organized company is amazing for those who want to feel the African ground.

Falling asleep to the roark of a lion, the footsteps of a nearby hyena or the grunt of a hippo can be awe-inspiring.

But don't be fooled, along with the joys there are dangers.

Your guides will run you through each little rule.

  • Zip up your tent
  • Don‘t walk about at night
  • Don‘t take food to your tent.

And when you see the footprints around your tent the next morning, you'll understand why these rules are in place.

6. Beware of baboons

Watch out for one of Africa's biggest pests – the baboon.

These fellows will be at most tourist places in Africa, they know travelers bring food, and aren't usually up for a fight.

  • Secure all your food and belongings
  • Wind up windows in cars and trucks
  • Don‘t take food into your tent or room.

Baboons and their other monkey buddies are crafty and usually smarter than us, so if you want to see your new camera plus a sandwich disappear, then just leave them out. They will be stolen.

And the last thing you want to do is get into a fight against the animals. Baboons have giant teeth and will leave a scar behind. Better to just let them have it, but assert yourself so they don't try it again.

Three of the best safari destinations in Africa

If you can't find animals in Kenya, you will never see them. Try the legendary Masai Mara, Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park and Nakuru. Each place is unique and will provide you with an unforgettable experience.

Tanzania is where you can see the incredible SerengetiNgorongoro Crater for plentiful animals and breath-taking surroundings. For the more hearty souls, get down to Ruaha National Park.

Botswana is one of the last great wildernesses of Southern Africa. Moremi National Park, Chobe National Park and Savuti National Park make up the Okavango Delta region.

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